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Turnout for Oregon’s primary election still lags behind historic levels

A voter drops a ballot outside of the Multnomah County Elections Division in Portland, Ore., Nov. 8, 2022. Oregon voters can vote by mail-in ballot, drop ballots at secure sites, or vote in-person

A voter drops a ballot outside of the Multnomah County Elections Division in Portland, Ore., Nov. 8, 2022. Oregon voters can vote by mail-in ballot, drop ballots at secure sites, or vote in-person

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Oregonians are running out of time to mail or drop off their ballots ahead of Tuesday’s primary election, and according to the latest statewide data, turnout continues to lag well behind historic levels.

As of Monday afternoon, roughly 590,296 Oregonians had returned a ballot. With more than 3 million residents registered to vote, that puts turnout at just 19.6% with the election fast approaching.

May elections are often sleepy in the state. In 2022, just 38% of voters submitted a ballot in the primary, despite a gubernatorial race featuring Democratic and Republican hopefuls.

Past presidential primary races saw turnout above 50%. The 2008 primary, which featured Barack Obama, pushed turnout to 58%, the highest participation rate since 1976.

The 2016 primary featured 54% voter participation.

November’s general election will bring more voters to the proverbial polls, but it’s unclear whether turnout will eclipse previous cycles. The 2020 election saw 79% voter participation and the 2016 contest produced 80% turnout.

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